The season six finale of Mad Men a few weeks ago involved the show’s main character, Don Draper, pitching an ad to a room full of Hershey’s executives. The fact that the pitch was blown at the very end by drunken antics now ubiquitously associated with Don Draper and other Mad Men characters is beside the point. What business people can really take away from the scene is this: people love associated brands with family memories. The Hershey’s pitch was reminiscent of one he did not screw up: Kodak’s photo carousel.
Don Draper talks about an old copywriter who told him that nostalgia in Greek means the pain from an old wound. He says it is a tinge in your heart that far more powerful that simple memories. Mad Men executives have used nostalgia as a pitch point throughout the show. The agency wins an award for an ad featuring a child trapped in the kitchen while his mother finishes the floors. Draper uses Hershey to discuss how the brand is associated with affection for his father. Even when the pitch is over, Draper confesses that he associates the candy with the first time he ever felt love—and the audience believes him. That is the power of branding.
Other brands that have gotten a boost from the country’s obsession with fictitious creative advertisers during the 1960s include Hilton, Heinz, Gillette, American Airlines, London Fog and Honda. The biggest benefit so far, however, has been from brands licensing the popular style of fashion inspired by the 1960s’ urban characters. Banana Republic reported record sales after a collection of Mad Men inspired outfits were released last year. Maidenform sells lingerie modeled after Joan Halloway, the sultry assistant. Mad Men’s power extends so far that a show about branding can actually influence branding outside of its world. Get rich quick schemes may be the way of the digital age, but Mad Men is an excellent reminder that a good brand lasts forever. It permeates into your childhood and is carried throughout your life.